Estate planning in itself is a morbid chore but is especially complicated when you have multiple heirs to consider. You don’t want to send the message that you favor one child over the other, but dividing things equally isn’t always regarded as fair.
Money can bring out a great deal of ugliness and strife, sometimes ruining relationships irreparably. It can be concerning to think that your legacy could result in future family feuds. Here are a few strategies for determining how to split your assets among your children without causing resentments.
Consider how you define “equal”
Giving your kids an equal share of your estate doesn’t necessarily mean you have to provide them with an equal dollar amount. While it may seem like the most impartial solution, equal shares could cause one of your children to resent their wealthier siblings for getting money they don’t “need.”
Maybe you’ve helped out one of your kids financially in the past – such as by paying for college – and wish to deduct that help from their inheritance. Parents may also leave more to the child who has the greater need. Carefully consider what will be the fairest for your family and circumstances.
Ask your children what they think
Discussing your estate plan’s intentions can help your family avoid conflicts down the road. You may believe dividing things into equal shares is the best route to take – but one of your children could reveal they would rather have less than their siblings or prefer a specific heirloom over money.
On the other hand, if you give your kids unequal shares without warning, it could ignite old siblings’ rivalries and arguments over who you loved more. Having an honest conversation with your children can help you make informed decisions with your estate plan and ensure everyone knows what to expect when the time comes.
Share your reasoning
No matter how you decide to split up your estate, you should consider leaving your children a detailed letter explaining why you did what you did. Rather than leaving your reasoning up to your kids’ imaginations, let them know how you came to your decision and what it means. Laying out your intentions clearly on paper can help keep sibling discord at bay after you’re gone.